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Saarema – the biggest island of Estonia is known as a good recreation place with unique nature and a lot of sights. Saaremaa has retained its uniqueness due to its location and insulation. In the villages there are still stone fences and houses with thatched roofs, beautiful national costumes and dialectal language are still used. Junipers, dolomite, windmills and the famous local home-brewed beer are considered the symbols of Saaremaa.
Roughly 40% of Saaremaa inhabitants live in the capital city, Kuressaare, where a historic Old Town and parks surrounding a picturesque 13th-century castle set a romantic mood for all who visit. Inhabited for at least 6000 years, Saaremaa is known in older German sources as Ösel. German Crusaders took the island in 1227 and from that time on it was divided between the Bishop of Riga and the Order of the Knights of the Sword. Denmark gained power over the island in the 16th century and granted city rights to Kuressaare in 1563. In 1645, Denmark ceded the island to Sweden, who controlled mainland Estonia. During the Soviet period, the entire island was a restricted military zone where even Estonians needed a special permit to visit. Today the island – with its windmills, medieval churches, limestone cliffs and rare wildlife – is one of the most popular destinations in Estonia.